Australia’s food industry encompasses a wide range of products. Although predominantly arid, Australia has a range of climates and land types. These include northern tropical areas, high-rainfall coastal regions, arid and semi-arid climates, most of which are used for food production. This variety, combined with cutting edge technology, makes Australia a reliable long-term supplier to global markets.
Australia’s Indigenous people, while primarily hunter-gatherers, had long been modifying their environment to improve access to ready sources of food. Examples include ‘firestick farming’ to attract grazing animals and the use of fish traps. The first food processing industries to appear were the farmhouse and village technologies of milling and baking, brewing, salting, and butter and cheese making. These were brought to Australia in 1788 with the first European settlement. By the 1790s, small quantities of beer, butter and cheese were on offer in the Sydney and Parramatta markets.
For decades, the acceptance of canned meat in English markets and the plentiful supply of raw material led to the canning of Australian meat. But in the mid nineteenth century, Australia’s processed food industry was to build on its commercial advantages by extending canning to jams and other products. The gold rushes of the 1850s brought around 600 000 migrants to Australia. The increased population immediately stimulated agriculture with farm employment in Victoria tripling in the three years to 1857. The late 1800s saw a period of rapid technological innovation with the arrival of refrigeration, which paved the way for a successful export meat industry, and automation, which revolutionised many processes. The Second World War galvanised the Australian food industry. Faced with new and urgent demand for unfamiliar service rations to precise specifications, the industry advanced rapidly. Existing technologies were modernised and...